Today's Papers

One Fined President

USA Today

, the Washington Post and the New York Times lead with the shooting rampage in Atlanta, in which a man killed nine people in two office buildings and then shot himself in the head as police closed in. The Los Angeles Times, which runs the shootings top-of-the-page, leads instead with the federal government’s announcement of $488 billion to be spent on mortgages and apartment building construction for moderate- and low-income families, a story nobody else fronts. California, where jobs have zoomed but affordable housing has not, will receive $84 billion of the subsidy. The USAT headline assumes that readers already know quite a bit about the story: ATLANTA GUNMAN DEAD. All four papers run the same Atlanta picture: a fit-looking man followed by a woman in a suit, both hauling ass as shots are fired–a sort of post-modern Packer sweep.

Besides the nine office building shooting victims, the papers report that after the shooter’s suicide, authorities found the bodies of his wife and two children in his apartment. Also, the coverage notes that he was the prime suspect, although never charged, in the beating deaths of his first wife and her mother. (The WP says those occurred in 1994, everybody else says 1993.) There were notes from the shooter found with the bodies of the second wife and the children, and the NYT quotes one police official as saying that they mentioned the murders of his first wife and mother-in-law.

The shooter was a chemist-turned-day-trader who had reportedly run up some big losses, although the coverage points out that the murders of his wife and children preceded by at least a day Thursday’s big market downturn. The LAT points out that the rampage combines two of the year’s biggest phenomena–mass shootings and the stock market boom. The WP trots out a quotation it got earlier in the year from the head of one of the investment firms where killings took place, in which he compares day-trading to firing a high-powered rifle: “If you use it right, you will be able to hunt effectively and bring down nice buck. But if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll probably blow your head off.”

The papers report that the federal judge who presided over the Paula Jones lawsuit yesterday ordered President Clinton to pay nearly $90,000 to Jones’ legal team for giving false testimony about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. The sum is less than the Jones lawyers asked for, but more than Clinton offered. Clinton and his lawyer said that they will pay the money without further legal protest. The WP and LAT play the story below the fold, the NYT reefers it, and USAT runs it on Page 5. This play, given the story’s unprecedented content, signifies that editors have just plain had it with the whole topic and are sure that readers feel likewise.

The WP, NYT, LAT and Wall Street Journal report that China has issued an arrest warrant for Li Hongzhi, the New York-based leader of the now-banned sect Falun Gong, charging him with the deaths of hundreds of his followers. The papers note that the warrant is much more political than legal, in that the U.S. does not have an extradition treaty with China.

The NYT reports that immediately after last summer’s terrorist bombing of two American embassies in Africa, the government of Sudan detained two suspects, only to angrily release them after the U.S. conducted a cruise missile strike against an alleged chemical weapons facility in Sudan. Also, the paper says, Sudanese officials claim that the U.S. ignored their message that they had suspects in the case in custody. The NYT says that Sudan’s notification has been confirmed by some American officials.

The nation’s heat wave continues to get coverage, with for instance, a WP front-pager under the cobwebby headline SCORCHING HEAT WAVE WON’T LET UP and a NYT op-ed reminding us that this is nothing compared to the Egyptian drought of 2180 B.C. But Today’s Papers has the nagging feeling that the papers are pretty much just phoning this one in. The USAT weather map shows, for instance, that it’s hotter in Billings, Montana and Rapid City, South Dakota than it is in Chicago or St. Louis. So why is it that the latter cities seem uniquely prone to heatstroke deaths? Is it something about building construction, energy availability or local lifestyle? And did people in Chicago and St. Louis die from heat in the current kinds of numbers a century ago–when there was no air conditioning? That is, have people become less tolerant of heat because of A/C? The papers don’t address any of this. They should.

The WSJ “Washington Wire” notes that in D.C., the jettisoning from NATO of Gen. Clark in favor of Gen. Ralston is viewed as a snub of the Army, which traditionally gets one of its generals in the NATO commander’s job. Clark is USA and Ralston is USAF. The appointment, notes the Journal shows the Kosovo legacy of the rise of air power over ground forces. Incidentally, it turns out that a recent column was absolutely wrong in saying that the NYT hadn’t deigned to mention that Ralston’s career stall was due to an adulterous affair he’d been forced to own up to. In the Times story in question, Gen. Ralston’s adultery was there right under Today’s Paper’s nose and yet Today’s Papers just didn’t see it. The whole episode has left Today’s Papers feeling, like, oh…like Mrs. Ralston.